James Hilton is undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most contemporary of British writers to be commemorated in the naming of a Plymouth street in the Manadon development that pays homage to more than twenty great home-grown novelists. Born in Lancashire in 1900 he had his first novel published in 1920 – Catherine Herself. It was to be the book that came out thirteen years later however that was to seal his place among the literary greats. That book was Lost Horizon and four years after its publication, in 1937 it was adapted for the then still fairly new film industry and although based on a fictional place in China has nevertheless spawned a valuable tourist industry to Deqing in Tibet, a place that broadly fits Hilton’s description of his Oriental paradise – Shangri-La.
The film adaptation of his 1934 novel Goodbye Mr Chips cemented public affection for his work and although other works – We Are Not Alone, To You Mr Chips, and Nothing So Strange among them – failed generate the same excitement 1941’s Random Harvest was also made into a film.
Twice married, the second time to a young Hollywood starlet, Hilton who was later reconciled with his first wife, died of liver cancer in Long Beach, California, in 1954.